In Emily Gould’s latest book, Friendship, Amy and Bev are long-time friends trying to figure out work, life and romance in New York City. On the surface, these two young women couldn’t seem more different. Amy, raised in a posh suburb on Long Island, has led a charmed life. She’s got a great boyfriend, a fabulous apartment, a cool job with a website called “Yidster,” and some semblance of Internet fame from her days as a blogger with a notorious and hot gossipy website.
Originally from the Midwest, Bev, on the other hand, finds her romantic life lacking, is a grad school dropout, lives in a crappy apartment with less than desirable roommates, and supports herself (barely) through a series of no-future temp jobs. Still, she and Amy have a strong bond that they figure will last them forever. They know each others’ flaws and foibles, and love each other anyway, just like friends always do.
About to turn 30, a time when many people take assessment of their lives, both Amy and Bev are about to be hit with some major changes. Charmed for far too long, Amy’s habit of screwing over her co-workers and other bloggers leads to her leaving Yidster. Her boyfriend dumps her and she faces an eviction notice. Bev, on the other hand, gets pregnant through a one-night stand, can’t find decent permanent employment, is crushed by student loan debt and doesn’t know if she can face her loved ones with her pathetic plight in life. Shouldn’t she have it together by now? And what is Amy’s problem?
At the same time, Amy and Bev befriend a woman named Sally and during one week-end, get to housesit Sally’s home in upstate New York. On the surface, Sally seems to have it all. She’s creative and artistic. She is married to a successful man named Jason. They’ve got a beautiful home and lots of money.
But looks can be deceiving. Sally’s marriage is on shaky ground. She calls herself a writer, but has barely written a word. And she’s also dealing with infertility.
Throughout Friendship, we get to know more about Amy, Bev (and Sally) through their respective pasts and how their past lives shaped them into their current forms. Amy’s past Internet success seems to be based more on her ability to promote herself and every intimate detail of her life than her ability as a writer. Bev had followed her boyfriend to Madison, Wisconsin only to have her heart trampled on by the jerk. She also messed up as a grad student. And Sally’s past includes time as a stripper, which a turns seems both subversive and shameful.
And then there are their current circumstances. Sally finds out Jason has cheated on her (you’ll have to read the book to find out who Jason slept with). Amy needs to find a job and a new apartment, pronto! And Bev is faced with the daunting task of either having an abortion or going through the pregnancy and either raising a child as a single mother or giving the baby up for adoption.
Amy and Bev find themselves tested in ways they never imagined. And now these challenges are starting to test their long-time friendship, and maybe not for the better.
Interestingly, enough, it is Bev who seems to handle her challenges a bit better than Amy. Unwed pregnancy seems to be a catalyst for her to get it together. As for Amy, having things just work out for without her putting in much effort seems to be catching up with her and she’s having more difficulty. And her sense of entitlement also seems to be holding her back.
As for Sally, unbeknownst to her, the potential of divorce and no chance of a biological child might be a slightly skewed road to true fulfillment.
For the most part, I did like Friendship. Gould is a gifted writer who captures both the big and small moments of female friendship—the girl talk, both silly and profound, the arguments and the make-up apologies, the nights out on the town, and so on. Gould is also has a flair for the descriptive. I could see the meetings in Yidster’s offices. I could see Sally and Jason’s gorgeous upstate New York home. I could see Bev filling out a temp agency’s application form. And I could also experience the sights and sounds of New York City.
However, I did find there were parts of the book that felt a bit flat. The male characters are drawn rather thin and at times, interchangeable. I found Amy better written than Bev but maybe because I have an inkling Gould was basing a bit of Amy on herself (Gould used to write for Gawker). The ending was also a bit pat, as if Gould had grown a bit bored and wanted to wrap things up and move onto her next project.
Still, Friendship is several steps up from the usual shallow garbage that passes for women’s literature and was a pleasurable way to cap off my summer reading.